The hunt for extraterrestrial signals from Barnard's Star was no ordinary endeavor.
Barnard’s Star, a red dwarf situated a mere six light-years away from our planet, has recently been the focus of an intense extraterrestrial signals search using the world’s leading radio telescope.
Barnard’s Star might be close, but it wasn’t until 1916 that it came under the limelight, thanks to E. E. Barnard who pinpointed its high proper motion. Although the star had been captured in photographic plates by Harvard Observatory back in the late 1800s, its subtle dimness rendered it largely unnoticed.
Past Hints at Planetary Companions
Decades ago, there were rumours about Barnard’s Star housing planets. During the 1970s, certain studies touted the potential existence of gas giants orbiting the star. Fast forward to 2018, when radial motion measurements hinted at a nearby super-Earth with a mass thrice that of Earth’s. Subsequent scrutiny debunked this claim, attributing the observed radial shifts to solar flares. Current research affirms no planets larger than 70% of Earth’s mass are in close orbit.
Interestingly, most red dwarfs, like the Kepler-42, have planets. Kepler-42, bearing similarities in age and size to Barnard’s Star, boasts at least three terrestrial planets.
In Pursuit of Alien Signals with FAST
The hunt for extraterrestrial signals from Barnard’s Star was no ordinary endeavor. Employing the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) – a mammoth fixed-dish design from China, which surpasses the Arecibo Observatory in size – the study probed into the depths of the universe. Given its sensitivity in long-distance communication frequencies, FAST emerges as a vital tool in the alien search.
The research delved deep into narrow-band emissions, the type of signals that would emerge if an alien entity were to send intentional radio communications towards Earth. Additionally, efforts were made to detect signals stemming from the speculated super-Earth, known as Barnard’s Star b.
As anticipated, the findings did not unearth any alien communications. Nevertheless, this was more of a test drive for FAST. With its capabilities, upcoming explorations targeting stars with confirmed habitable-zone planets may just strike gold.
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